After Modernism

Notes from the seminar;

Modernism was a movement of self criticism

Causes of the rise of abstract expressionism

  • Desire to claim cultural leadership
  • Official sponsorship (art as a weapon of the Cold War)Desire to synthesise the main trends of European art
  • Desire to claim cultural leadership – cubism and surrealism

In 1940’s New York Cubism was-

  • Fragmentation of form
  • Politics and engagement with the outside world.
  • Line and plane
  • Flatness vs. volume

Surrealism was-

  • Automatism, the carrying out of actions without thought.
  • Hidden imagery
  • Desire, engagement with the internal world


  • Gesture
  • Ideogram- a character symbolising the idea of a thing without indicating the sounds used to say it
  • Size and scale- large canvases to renounce the illusion of depth
  • The ‘all over’ effect

Modernist painting became so when Kant used philosophy to investigate philosophy rather than to investigate the world.

Greenberg’s formalist definition of painting is that it is two dimensional, the support is rectangular in shape(canvas) and the properties of the pigment.

Duchamp is about humour and intellectualism in the complicated meaning of “The Large Glass” reproductive organs and finding a husband/wife. These ideas challenge Greenberg’s definitions of painting and such.


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